Tips for Capturing a Veteran's Stories

Tips for Capturing a Veteran's Stories

Posted on
May 29, 2023
the perfect gift
Storii - Record your Memoir - Gift BoxBuy a Storii Gift Box
Quick Navigation

Getting armed services veterans to speak about their experiences can be a sensitive process, as it often involves discussing potentially traumatic events. Here are some tips to approach the conversation respectfully and some good questions to ask:

Establish rapport

Begin by expressing your appreciation for their service and acknowledging the importance of their experiences. Let them know that you are interested in hearing their story and that you're there to listen without judgment.

Create a comfortable environment

Choose a quiet and private setting where the veteran feels at ease. Ensure that they know the conversation is confidential and that they have the option to share as much or as little as they are comfortable with.

Start with open-ended questions

Begin by asking broader questions to encourage them to open up gradually. For example:

- Could you share some of your most memorable experiences during your time in the armed services?

- What initially motivated you to join the military? How did your expectations align with reality?

- How did you and your military friends have fun together while you were deployed?

- What are some things you miss about the service? What are some things you are glad to have left behind?

Show genuine interest and active listening

Pay attention to their responses and provide verbal and non-verbal cues that demonstrate your engagement and interest. Encourage them to continue sharing by nodding, maintaining eye contact, and asking follow-up questions.

Be sensitive to their emotions

Veterans may have experienced traumatic events during their service, so it's important to be mindful of their emotional well-being. If they show signs of discomfort or distress, be prepared to shift the conversation to a different topic or provide emotional support.

Respect boundaries

Some veterans may prefer not to discuss certain topics or specific events. Respect their boundaries and avoid pressuring them to share more than they are comfortable with.

Ask about lessons learned

Inquire about the lessons and values they acquired through their military experience. For example:

- What were the most significant lessons you learned during your time in the armed services?

- How has your military experience shaped your perspective on life?

- What did you learn about yourself from your time in the service?

Discuss the transition to civilian life

Many veterans face unique challenges when transitioning back to civilian life. Ask about their experiences and any advice they have for others going through a similar transition:

- How did your military service impact your transition to civilian life?

- What advice would you give to someone who is currently transitioning out of the military?

- What has been difficult to communicate with friends and family about your military service?

Remember the fallen

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that it can feel like no one wants to talk about them afterward. People are often afraid to bring up someone who has passed away for fear that it will cause hurt and pain. On the contrary, many of us enjoy reminiscing about those who are no longer with us. It can be more painful to feel as if they are forgotten and a taboo subject rather than someone to be remembered and celebrated. Here are some questions you could ask about a service member who has died:

What was your relationship to ______ like?

Are you comfortable talking about ______? How did you learn of ________'s death?

What did ______ look like?

What is one of your favorite memories with _______?

What has helped you the most in your grief?

Do you have any traditions to honor ________ ?

What do you miss most about ______ ?

Remember, each veteran's experience is unique, so it's important to approach the conversation with empathy, patience, and respect. Listen actively and adapt your questions accordingly to create a supportive and meaningful dialogue.

As a platform dedicated to recording life stories, Storii has an Armed Services category full of many questions like the ones you've seen in this blog. These questions can be sent to a storyteller via our phone call service. Their answers are recorded, transcribed, and stored to a keepsake profile. Click here to learn more about Storii.